Christmas House on Harvard Court
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Ann Behler sits next to the nine-foot Frazer Fir Christmas tree that husband, Andy insists they have to have. It takes her six hours to decorate. But it is a labor of love.
Andrew and Ann Behler's home was built in 1918.
They are the third family to reside in the American Foursquare Victorian structure made of Blue Mountain stone and brick, located on Charles Street in Palmerton.
The first story consists of solid stone with no framing, allowing wide windowsills in clear chestnut. The second story is delineated with a brick face on a frame and plank structure. Three dormers in the original slate roof provide ventilation to the two bedrooms on the third floor. Some of the other features include wide overhanging eaves, second floor's sleeping porch, leaded windows in the dining and living rooms, a stone fireplace and original light fixtures.
"Andy wanted to keep the integrity of the home's structure when we did some remodeling and updating," says Ann Behler.
She said that was very important to Andy, an engineer. When they wanted to remodel the kitchen, Andy searched until he found old barn boards of chestnut so that the new kitchen cabinets and wainscoting could be made to match the original, which was to remain. Visitors cannot tell the new from the original.
The Behler home was one of those featured in the Palmerton Concourse Club's Christmas House Tour.
Some of the other unique aspects of the home were pointed out to the visitors on the tour, such as the antique kitchen cherry table that belonged to his grandmother and an old ice chest.
Ann says her decorating style is eclectic.
"I like to throw some contemporary in with the old," she says.
Like placing beautiful glass ornaments on the windowsill of a leaded glass window. Or displaying a Dept. 56 village atop the wooden encasement of the home's original radiators. Or featuring a large abstract painting by their daughter, Katie, an artist, on the dining room wall but with a chestnut frame made by her father.
The handsome original carved wood trim throughout the home is a quiet and subtle feature of the home.
But there is no sutelity about the nine-foot Frazer Fir that dominates the living room.
It is a family tradition to visit Beisel's Christmas Tree Farm every year. It is Andy's mission to find the biggest tree he can.
"By his standards, this year's is a small tree," chuckles Ann.
There is no specific theme for the decorations. It is filled with ornaments that the family has received over the years as gifts, (Ann is a preschool teacher at Charlie Brown Nursery School), bought and made by the three Behler daughters, Katie, Marybeth and Andrea. It took her six hours to decorate it.
"I could never find a tree topper I really liked so I found these red picks that look like fireworks and stick them in and around the top of the tree," she says.
A prominent feature of the room, besides the tree, is the Nativity. The creche was made by their good friend, Mike Ebbert. He tried to make it proportional to the figures and of a real stable. It has become a very cherished family heirloom and sits on top of an old treadle sewing marching that belonged to Andy's great-grandmother, Bertha Kromer.
The home's dining room table is made out of wood from old homes and churches in Italy and has a center made out of inlaid wood.
The second live tree is in the Behlers' family room in the basement, which is as charming as the upstairs. With its original stone walls of the foundation, the rooms are cozy and warm, a place that is as inviting as the Behlers themselves.
"Christmas to me means family. None of the girls live at home any more but we try to keep our family traditions alive."
Ever since the girls were small, the Behlers bought everyone new Christmas pajamas. Ann wrapped them and they got to open them to wear to bed on Christmas Eve.
Now Marybeth and her husband Aziz Attieh, and Katie and her husband, Kyle Davis, get their wrapped pj's before. They get up very early Christmas morning and come to the Behlers dressed in their PJs. Andrea still comes home to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Andy gets up early to build a fire in the fire place and then goes back to bed. By the time everyone is up and ready to open their presents, they have a nice roaring fire to keep them toasty. After the presents are all opened, they sit down to a traditional meal of Skier's French Toast, an egg casserole and homemade sticky buns, placed in the oven before the gift-giving so their warm inviting fragrance fills the air.
"It's all about the family," says Ann.